Amazing Mama Guinea Story

Discussion in 'Guinea Fowl' started by NCgirl21, Sep 6, 2013.

  1. NCgirl21

    NCgirl21 Out Of The Brooder

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    Jun 15, 2012
    Concord, North Carolina
    I know the words "amazing" and "Mama Guinea" never are seen together in a sentence. I've had guineas for a year, and the woman I purchased them from assured me I would be back this past Fall for more due to predators, wandering, etc, taking my five.

    But what I witnessed today was so, wow, extraordinary, that I really wanted to share a story showing that the stereotype that I've read countless times of "great layers (if you can find their nest-ha!), terrible mothers" isn't always true. But after reading that over and over again I thought that's just how it was. There was no such thing as a good Mama Guinea. And that compelled me to write this story to give some people hope that all those stories that I read isn't necessarily how it's going to go.

    We never planned to bring Keets into the world but our one female guinea out of five was determined to be a mom. Through at least four or five, rather frightening, thunderstorms, on June 18th (Happy Father's Day boys!) the nest she'd been protecting for three weeks starting hatching 18 (out of 24 eggs) strong, healthy, beautiful baby keets.
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    But we were still concerned. We kept reading what terrible mothers guineas were and we were waiting for the other shoe to drop. Alright, she warmed her eggs in bad weather and now would she just pop up and say, bye kids? Well, the overcautious person that I am, I desperately wanted to intervene and scoop them up and put them in a brooder box so they'd be safe and warm and have food and water. How could I rely on her to keep all 18 warm and safe when her breed had such a terrible reputation? Despite my wanting Mama Guinea to raise them (that would be great!), I still wanted to take them. But I held back. We knew a storm was coming and we tried to put a big beach umbrella over Mama and a board to redirect water to go around her because she was on a slope and water flooded that nest of eggs two weeks earlier. That was the WORST idea ever. NEVER, EVER, try and introduce something foreign to them in an already anxious state of time. She freaked out and ran through the woods. And here we were running around trying to collect all 18 keets that obviously couldn't keep up running over the branches and leaves. Thankfully, all 18 were safe. We put them in a container and brought them to the Guinea run and Mama came and settled over top of them like the good Mama she was.

    And then one of the worse thing that can threaten the keets ability to survive happened- it rained. And it didn't just rained. I mean it RAINED. Thunder. Lightening. I knew how bad rain was for day old keets. I was reading and reading. "They can't get wet because then they die, they can't get cold because then they die, they can't this, they can't that...because then they die" I obviously wasn't going to let them be washed away or chill to death so my reluctant decision was made for me. It started pouring and although she was trying to lay on them I didn't trust she'd actually be able to keep them safe and dry. Taking them was a nightmare, not only was she flipping out, so were her four bodyguards/baby daddies. But we took them put them inside the coop in a brooder box with an Ecoglow (if you don't know what that is and you have chicks or will and use a heat lamp, invest in an Ecoglow- BEST THING EVER.) I did both the heat lamp the first time around and the Ecoglow the second. I was always so worried about the heat lamp being too high, too low, to hot, too cold, burning out, falling, etc, etc. The EcoGlow was perfect.

    Back to those keets, I considered putting them back with her the next day after the storm but the bad weather continued and I'll be honest, I was incredibly relieved to know all 18 little bodies were safe, warm, fed, and watered in the brooder. We only had them a week because someone we knew wanted all 18! Which is more wonderful than we could have every hoped for.

    So I thought we were done with keets! It was exciting but nerve-wracking. That was June 19th and today on September 6th, that same Mama Guinea just hatched four keets....When I noticed she had gone broody again so soon after hatching such a big flock, I went to the same places that repeatedly told me she wouldn't be a good mom and told me she definitely wouldn't go broody again. She had only started laying eggs and now she was going to go broody on that nest too?! Back-to-back?! Everyone said it was unheard of. Mama Guineas only go broody three times a year.

    Well, this was one Mama that was determined to have some babies. Because broody she went. We start calculating how long until they hatch by when she settles and starts spending her days and nights there, and we calculated September 23rd. Six of the eggs were numbered and the last six she had laid a few days later on.

    Last night I did the daily routine of cleaning the coop, checking food levels, and giving the chickens and guineas fresh water. Mama Guinea's nest is about thirty feet away from the driveway right in the beginning of the woods so I see her when I past by but I don't go too close usually because she'll hiss and is very protective. They boys actually chased one of my dachshunds away and he never bothered her again! And Mama Guinea put my Belgian Malinois (German Shepherd-sized dog) in her place right away for getting too close!

    But last night about an hour before getting dark, I just had an urge to go look at her. She wasn't due for two weeks, but I thought I'd take over some scratch and from afar toss it by her if she wanted it. She was THRILLED for the food. And she turned to the left to reach one that was a little out of reach and what I NEVER expected to see was a keet to pop out from under her wing! It didn't make any sense! She'd only been consistently on the nest for a week or two. I wasn't ready for that! This time was going to be different though- weather permitting (and it's beautiful here in NC right now!) she was going to have sole responsibility (well, not sole, we're still putting out food, water, and are going to keep an eye on them- one isn't walking so well. I was hoping he/she was just born last but it's been quite a few hours and she hasn't been able to walk upright like the others, so I may have to intervene with that one but it's not going to be like last time). Mama Guinea desperately wanted to be a Mama. And this morning I watched her and her boys slowly take about 4 hours to make their way the maybe 75 feet from her nest to the run. It wasn't a far distance at all. But she would hunt and peck (all five plus four keets) and then she'd lay down and the four boys would surround her in a circle in high alert. Four hours. And she slowly would walk closer and closer to the Guinea run. And instead of walking directly through the grass cutting across (it would have been a lot faster), she went around the grass edge like she knew that they were too small to walk through the grass. I expected her to go the short way because why not? And I was so concerned with the morning dew on the grass and despite it being cut last night, the keets are just so tiny that it still looked too tall. But she knew. She knew the safest way for them. She had never walked along the outside perimeter of the grass. It's a big yard and it's such a detour from her nest to the run. She has always gone through the grass. But not with them. Mama Guinea keeps surprising me. She finally made it to their run and all five and four keets made their way in. It's a really big step so last night we compacted sand outside the run so there would be a slope up the step and now that they are in the run the keets won't be able to run out which is exactly what I want for the first week anyway, but Mama Guinea was able to make her own decision on going into the run and as soon as she made it in there she sat down and all the little keet feet ran under her to get warm.

    I have a feeling that she is going to continue being an amazing mother. There is just so much proof showing it. And the four boys are just as amazing, always standing in a circle around her, walking with her, they run when she calls (her call is very distinct from the others!), they keep a look out, or just lay down next to her and keep her company. They are so gentle and mindful of the keets. I hope that baby keet that is having trouble walking will be okay but besides that, I think they are in the best possible care because this morning when I saw them lay down together in the run, I smiled knowing that they are not the guinea stereotype. It warmed my heart seeing the guineas surround her while she was laying on the keets even in the run. And it amazed me to see one of the male guineas lay down right next to her at that same time and nuzzle her head showing affection. They aren't the guinea stereotype that I've read repeatedly about. They are a family and I wouldn't do anything to break that up again.
     
    Last edited: Sep 6, 2013
  2. HoneyDreameMom

    HoneyDreameMom Out Of The Brooder

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    Aug 5, 2013
    Thanks for sharing - this is a wonderful guinea story! I think some of us are blessed with guineas that don't go by the textbook. Despite everything I read and everyone I talked to about guineas not going broody until the spring after they hatch, the guineas we got in late March/early April have laid a full clutch of 16 eggs, and one of the hens is happily sitting on them as we speak. We considered the incubator, but decided to let her have a shot at it.

    We had decided as soon as the keets hatched we'd put them in a brooder, but your story makes me want to hold off and observe her mothering instincts first. I'd love to see how she handles it. I don't mind stepping in if keet lives are on the line, but I figure guinea hens raise their babies in the wild, so they can't all be lousy moms...maybe that's being optimistic. [​IMG]
     
  3. Lovingwhatis

    Lovingwhatis New Egg

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    Aug 28, 2012
    Just yesterday, I had a guinea hen nesting in our garden under a dense bed of hostas successfully hatch 5 out of 12 eggs. She kept them warm and dry the first night through a rain storm. This morning she was walking around with them and her mate through the wet grass. She raised little objection to me catching them and placing them in a brooder box. I did this because I was concerned about their their health and safety roaming around. I did not know if the mother would be willing to bring them indoors at night and didn't want to risk losing them to the wet grasses and predators. I would love to hear anyone else's experience of letting them be raised by their mom and dad. How many have had succes. Do you think the parents sleep away from the flock at night or bring the babies inside to roost?
     
    Last edited: Sep 13, 2013
  4. NCgirl21

    NCgirl21 Out Of The Brooder

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    Jun 15, 2012
    Concord, North Carolina
    Yes, definitely! Going through it twice, I can honestly say having her raise them is the way that has worked much better for me and the Keets/Guineas. I think despite her being an amazing mother, 18 the first time around would be too many for her to raise on her own though. Personally, if she hatched anything less than 10 I would give her a chance at it before stepping in and putting them in the brooder box weather permitting of course. However, we just had a rainstorm a few days ago in the afternoon and thankfully she sat on them! The first round with 18 were constantly stepped on and I think it was overwhelming to the Mama Guinea because she and the boys paced a lot. This time around Mama Guinea has four Keets and there are four full-sized boys plus her, and over a week later and they are still doing a fabulous job raising the keets! Our Mama Guinea is still VERY protective over her babies and she makes sure no chicken, dog, or person gets too close. We still only have supervised free ranging in the evening and we check every night to make sure she is sitting on them.

    Good luck with your guineas and soon to be keets!
     
  5. NCgirl21

    NCgirl21 Out Of The Brooder

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    Jun 15, 2012
    Concord, North Carolina
    My four are being solely raised by the mom and four adult males. Before the keets, the guineas would go into their run at night and I would let them out in the morning. Now with the keets, they are only allowed to free range in the evening when the grass is dry and then when it gets close to dark, the guineas and keets go home and Mama Guinea has made a nest in one of the corners and she goes there and sits for the night while the four boys roost up top in the run. She usually sleeps with the boys up roosting but now that she has the babies, she sleeps on the ground over them every night so far for the past week and a half almost. Our Mama Guinea wants to sleep with the flock. In fact, she gets very upset when her four adult boys leave her and she'll call and they'll come running back. I think so long as you have a home for Mama Guinea that she also considers her home, she'll want to go there because she feels safe there. I would just suggest to make sure to check at night to make sure she's sitting on them. We usually shine a flashlight quickly and can see her in her nesting spot. Hope this helps!
     
  6. Lovingwhatis

    Lovingwhatis New Egg

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    Aug 28, 2012
    Thank you for your response. Yes, it makes a lot of sense that she would want to bring them home. We have a 6 foot fence set up like Gardening With Guineas and i wondered if she would stay in the run all day with without being kept indoors. Do you have them in a separate room during the day? I would love to let her raise her babies and look forward to it next year if I can minimize keet mortalities.
     
  7. PioneerPrincess

    PioneerPrincess Chillin' With My Peeps

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    Sep 16, 2009
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    Wow, that is such a sweet story! Neither of our guinea hens have gone broody, though we did have one of our chicken hens hatch six keets. They sure kept her on her toes! I'm so glad that your mama guinea has been a great mama. What a blessing! : )
     
  8. Tacampbell1973

    Tacampbell1973 Chillin' With My Peeps

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    May 26, 2013
    Washington State
    Hi NCGirl, I loved your story. I wished ours could have worked out that way, but here inWashington state we just had the reminants of a coastal typhoon last week with rain showers for three days that you could hardly see your hand in front of your face. Was wondering after looking at your pics, what color your guineas are described as.... They and their keets are identical in color to mine and I am new to guineas.
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  9. Jarb1951

    Jarb1951 New Egg

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    Jan 5, 2013
    Awendaw, S.C.
    Enjoyed your story very much, NCGirl21, those sound like some nice guineas....good mama!
     
  10. BEATIEBARN

    BEATIEBARN New Egg

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    Feb 7, 2013
    I too have a wonderful guinea mama story to tell, but I'll save it. The point is, steriotyping guineas as "bad mama/parents" is false. They make spectacular parents and are even more protective of their babies than chickens.
     

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